The Nation’s First Green Restaurant District?

It started as a assignment in the Envisioning Sustainable Cities class I took at Lesley University this fall: craft a proposal for a sustainability project for my home city. As a foodie and a neighborhood booster, I had the idea for a green restaurant district in Washington Square. After all, we are home to the Boston area’s first green restaurant — The Fireplace — and many other eateries from take-out to fine dining.

In doing the research for the proposal, I spoke with a number of local people and the idea took on a life of its own. It has been embraced by a number of local organizations as well as the Green Restaurant Association (GRA) which has agreed to certify Washington Square as the nation’s first green restaurant district if 25% of its restaurants meet the GRA’s certification standards. The Green Restaurant District project will be a feature of Brookline’s Climate Week in January 2012.

Why pursue a Green Restaurant District?

–          Restaurants are the dominant business in Wasington Square (20 of 62 storefront businesses are restaurants).

–          Restaurants have a greater impact on the environment than other businesses: on average, they use 2.5x the energy of other businesses, generate approximately 50,000 lbs of waste (95% of which could be recycled or composted), and use up to 300,000 gals of water;

–          The Square already has Boston’s first certified green restaurant here: The Fireplace. Owner Jim Solomon is enthusiastic and says that he saves significantly on his operating costs as a result of adopting environmentally friendly practices;

–          The Green Restaurant Association (GRA) gathered more than 2,000 signatures in Brookline from people who said that they wanted Brookline restaurants to “go green.”

Thus it seems logical: if  Washington Square restaurants  “go green,” they benefit from lower costs while the town benefits from a smaller environmental footprint. And, with the publicity likely to result from becoming the first green restaurant district in the country, more diners will be attracted to the Square giving business a boost. It’s a win, win, win!

Another personal benefit of the project is that it is a chance to move beyond the academic exploration of leadership to the front lines. While the initial enthusiasm from the neighborhood is great, it will take a lot of meeting, educating, and cajoling to make the green restaurant district a reality. And did I mention that I am looking forward to getting to know the restauranteurs better?

I’ll keep you posted. If you are interested in helping, please be in touch.

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